A few weeks back a client forwarded me a newsletter from a woman named Jamie Varon. I read the newsletter and knew I had to find a way to share it with all of you. It’s that good, and I’m sharing it with you today.
When this newsletter first came in, as I normally do in an effort to keep my inbox at zero, I popped it into a “read later” folder in gmail.
One night a few weeks later I got the urge to go through that “read later” folder. Cozied up in a blanket with a cup of tea, I submerged myself into that folder and nugget after nugget of wisdom flew out at me.
Normally I hit “delete” on as many newsletters as I can at the start of the day. But because a client had sent this to me, I trusted it was valuable. I knew it was worth reading. And I promise you, it is.
Today I’m sharing that exact email from Jamie Varon on trust, control, and finding the middle, because it’s so good! Jamie writes a new letter to her email list every other Friday and calls them her “Friday Letters.”
I’m signed up for her Friday Letters and cannot wait for the next one!
After reading this letter I immediately emailed Jamie to ask if I could share it. Thankfully, she said yes and now YOU can enjoy it as well.
Here’s an introduction from her Friday Letters sign-up page:
“I’m Jamie Varon and I’m a writer and designer currently living in Los Angeles. I started Friday Letters in November of 2018 and wrote the first one from a coffee shop in Madrid. In a highlight-reel-world, these Letters were my way of bringing humanness and honesty back to the internet. An homage to old school blogging.
They have now turned into a place where I can be my most honest self—and feel a sense of community around all these things I’ve kept hidden for so long.
Writing these Letters has made me braver. And, because of them, I was inspired to write my first book, which I’m working on now. Thank you for being a part of this community here. Talk to you Friday!”
Ready for her letter? Let’s go!
The sun is shining onto my face, the weather is finally not triple-digits, and the other day I got to wear a sweater—outside! For people who do not live in Los Angeles—and more specifically, in the Valley—it has been surface-of-the-sun levels of hot for what feels like a hundred months, so having an actual need for a sweater is something to celebrate (if you’re like me and you like sweaters, of course). No one has ever described LA as a “cozy” city to live in and yet I am a person who thrives in cozy. Why I always choose to live in places where it’s endless summer I do not know.
At about the fourth month of 100 degree weather, I start to question all my life choices, all my preferences, the very reason for existence. I drank a hot coffee the other day. A hot coffee! Here in LA, when you’re Jamie Varon and desperately seeking cozy, you celebrate all chilly milestones—no matter how small! Those are the rules and I made them up!
I’m going to be vague here: the last few weeks have taken a lot out of me and yesterday was the first day I felt like myself again—clear-headed, optimistic, excited, focused. I am always grateful that I have a foundation to fall back on when I experience a time of unexpected turmoil. I know that if I stick to my rituals, even if I half-ass them, eventually I’ll start feeling more resilient. If I listen to my feelings, as opposed to repressing them, I’ll be able to better grow from the experience.
If I can be honest with myself, even if that honesty is hard to swallow, even if that means backtracking, even if that means admitting my own mistakes, then I am even more likely to feel stronger through disappointment. I would rather take the time to get something right than to bullheadedly power ahead on something that is clearly not working. And, I mean that in every aspect of my life.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about in today’s Letter, but now it seems obvious. I need to write about trust and specifically self-trust.
Let’s get into it.
I don’t know about all of you, but I seem to have themes that pop up in different seasons of my life. It’s like I can chart my years less by age and more by what I was going through at that time, what I was learning, how I was growing. It might be that I focus on that kind of experience more than the expectations of where I “should” be by which age. For example, the year I spent in France felt like I kept learning how to enjoy life and let go of any last hangups I had about my body, any last debate about whether I deserved the kind of life I wanted to have. And, sure, that lesson might come up from time to time now, but it’s not the overarching focus any longer.
This year, the focus seems to be a reckoning between my own trust/intuition and my need for control.
A few weeks ago, I started seeing a new therapist every other week. Nothing was ostensibly or overwhelmingly “wrong.” I simply knew that the next year would be challenging for me as I start to reintegrate ambition back into my life and I felt like it would be helpful to have someone to talk to about that. I love therapy. I fully do not believe that anyone needs to be in crisis in order to go to therapy. I wish more people had access to therapy, that there was no stigma around it, because more people processing their emotions and experiences in a healthy, controlled atmosphere would make for a better world. Unexpressed pain and the incorrect idea that being an emotional person is akin to being a weak person is a plague on society. Vulnerability could save us, but it’s still so stigmatized.
I used to think I trusted myself in my twenties, because I took these interesting risks, like moving to Rome for three months when I was only 23, like starting a business from nothing, like making these bold moves that nobody else seemed to be making. And sure, I think some of it was intuitive, trusting in my own desire to go there, see that, try this. But, when I explained this behavior to my therapist, she looked at me in a funny way and said, “That doesn’t sound like intuition. That sounds like you were impulsive.” And, there was a bolt of recognition—yes, it was impulsiveness, because for the most part, I eschewed consequences. I traveled, yet most of the time it was outside my financial means and, instead of being smart about money, I ignored it and racked up credit card debt. I started a lot of new things, but I also didn’t finish a lot of things. I talked a lot about all my plans and aspirations, but I never put in the daily, consistent work to make any of those a reality.
That voice I thought was my intuition was actually impulsivity, which makes sense, because when I started to “get my shit together” I swung from impulse to control. I don’t think intuition leads you into a chaotic mess that your future self is burdened to clean up. But, because I had been misattributing those experiences as “intuitive,” as I swung that other direction I stopped trusting myself. I thought that trusting myself would lead me down a destructive path, like it had in the past. I assumed it had been my intuition, me following my gut, that had led me to ignore consequences, avoid my emotions, and, in essence, escape from reality.
So, I became controlled. Routinized. Budgeted. I got out of credit card debt. I learned to be a reliable person. I got my shit together, as they say. I stopped existing in chaos. I started being consistent and committed. I saw a lot of growth, a lot of joy. And, all of that was necessary. I needed the extreme, to swing from one side to the other. There was no middle ground.
But, there was a casualty to this extreme swing. Now that it’s been a few years, now that I have course-corrected all that destructive behavior—I’ve lost the ability to trust myself. Maybe I never had it. Maybe I only ever had it in small pockets. But, I remember feeling more willing to follow my intuition, to stake a claim on the next move because it felt right to do so. Maybe both were true: I was impulsive, but I was also more likely to trust what I felt was the next right move without any evidence. Without the need to control every aspect of it.
And, what I’m seeking now is balance of the two. A new paradigm. A new way to exist. It feels like stretching into a version of a person I don’t even know is possible. How to trust myself without avoiding consequences. How to stay stable and consistent without becoming so strict and routinized that I forget that life happens in the flexibility, in the adaptation.
In the last week, my therapist told me I am learning to trust myself again. I talked to my mom yesterday and she said the same thing. “You need to trust yourself, Jamie.” And I realized it made me afraid—to trust myself. That if I do so, I will backslide into feeling as out of control as I felt in the last few years of my twenties—overwhelmed by debt, not where I wanted to be professionally, incapable of seeing myself calm and steadied, living in constant chaos and destruction. I have only known those two extremes: complete lack of accountability or intense clenching. Inflexible or careless. Destructive or risk-averse.
I want the middle ground. I think I’m ready for that. I’ve been very controlled for a long time and that has helped me in so many different ways. I am proud of myself for not just changing habits, but changing facets of my identity I thought defined me. Which of course, that was the hardest part. The habits are a series of actions. It was the identities that took the time to unclench from. That I was a free-spirit. That I followed my intuition at any cost. That I was wild and free and interesting and unconventional. But all of those identities, when turned on their head, when held on too tight, can be liabilities. A free-spirit can become reality-avoidant. Unconventional can become flighty. Intuition can become delusion. Interesting can become a trap to always perform for others. Wild can be exhausting. And yet, control, at first, can feel like safety. And then, after awhile, it can feel like a vise around your life.
The answer is maybe: everything—even identities—in moderation.
How can we change and grow if we define ourselves too specifically? Maybe we don’t need to be a collection of adjectives that we base a life around, but instead we let ourselves be who we need to be in whichever season of life we find ourselves in. There are times for hunkering down and exacting control over certain parts of life. There are times for sitting down in the chair and getting it done and times when you need to say fuck it and do only the bare minimum of life responsibilities. It’s the inflexibility that traps us. The holding too tight to identities, to who we used to be, who we’ve told others we are.
I’m ready to trust myself again. To integrate all these different adjectives that describe me and let myself choose the one I need when I need it, like they are tools in a toolbox and I get to grab the one that fits the situation. I’ve been making myself choose. I’ve been forcing myself to stick to one version of myself. I’ve been too afraid to listen back within, to sometimes keep the plan and sometimes know when the plan needs to change. I’ve been too afraid of my own trust. My own intuition. I thought that’s what drove me into destructive behavior I had to undo and fix with this exacting control. But, I need to trust that I have my best interests at heart. I think that’s what I didn’t have before. I was listening to my intuition, acting on impulse, but in the past, in those confusing and chaotic years, I didn’t want the best for myself. I wanted to prove I was good at being good. I wanted to try to earn my worth. I wanted to be interesting to others. I wanted to be impressive.
But, those aren’t my goals any longer. I don’t care about any of that. I care about showing up for myself—and now it’s time to let go of this clenched-fist control and start listening within again. Figure out this balance. Integrate my identities.
I can’t bend life to my will. Control isn’t exact even if I’m exacting about it. It doesn’t actually work. If my only goal in life is to be in control of it, then I will live in a cramped box. I will miss the unexpected, the surprises, the course changes that were better than I could have ever planned for. I want spontaneity, too. I want a life that feels open. I don’t want to be destructive, but I want to go beyond the expected. Beyond my own imagination. Beyond my fear.
I want life to surprise me. I want to be 60 years old and still waiting for the next great experience in my life. I want to have a sense of adventure. I want to be free in both mind and body. I want to have my shit together and I want to be reliable and I want to show up for my best intentions and I want to do what I say I’m going to do. And yet, I want to shift when I need to shift. I want to trust that when something isn’t working, it doesn’t mean I should give up—it means I need to find a new way forward.
Being impulsive and ignoring consequences is easy. Being controlled and planned over every aspect of life is easy, too. Both are extreme versions of either clenching or ignoring. It’s a small box. A small life. A life of fear in either direction.
And, I think the hard part is finding a way to be in the complexity of both. Taking calculated, smart risks. Giving up when something isn’t working. Changing course even if it means the timeline gets pushed, even if it means going back to the brainstorm. Saying sorry. Enacting boundaries and yet still allowing an open space for intimacy. Letting yourself, others, everything be imperfect. Knowing that control is impossible. Accepting what is in a radical and powerful all-encompassing type of way.
It’s the middle that is difficult. The middle is scary—because the middle is power. It’s accountability and action and also listening within. It’s integration. It’s a level up, a new way of existing in a world that wants us to choose who we are and stick to that.
The middle is where we are most free to be exactly who we are. Not needing to define who we are, because who we are will change and shift and grow and transform—and that’s where we most thrive.
Ever-shifting. Ever-growing. Accepting what is and yet still desiring for more. The middle is advanced-level human.
I’m not there yet, but I’m trying. Accepting what is, reaching for more.
And, if you liked this post I think you will also like this post that I shared on what intuitive means to me – they both relate, so much.
Sending you all loads of love and hoping that you too, will find your middle ground and learn to trust yourself.
What a beautiful post, right?